Category Archives: Referees in the Middle

Referees in the Middle: David Allison

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Middlesbrough 4-1 Leeds United (22 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Wimbledon 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 April 1994)

David Allison was one of the referees in the very first season of the Premier League. By the time the competition had been formed in 1992, he had already being part of the profession for 12 years, taking charge of his first Football League match in 1980.

When he was promoted to the referees’ list at the age of just 31, some thought he was too young to handle the pressure of top-flight matches which in the 1980s were often played on slow, bumpy pitches at a more aggressive tempo. However, he was seen as a steady pair of hands to control these games. With more experience and maturity, he was becoming one of the best and most trusted officials in the Football League.

By the end of the 1980s, he was often the man given responsibility to handle the testing but enjoyable Manchester and Merseyside derbies. Despite this widespread praise, he was overlooked for the showpiece FA Cup final. David’s most senior appointment in cup football was taking charge of a League Cup semi-final first leg in 1992 between Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur.

His first Premier League appointment was newly-promoted Middlesbrough’s surprising 4-1 home win over defending champions Leeds United. Allison would remain on the Premier League’s officiating list for the first two seasons of the new era in English football, controlling 33 matches.  In 1994, the league decided to move to a smaller list of officials who would control its matches. It was a big surprise to see him not selected to continue duties in the top-flight.

This was a crushing disappointment for David but he didn’t pack up his whistle until the end of the 1996-1997 season after returning to Football League duty for another three campaigns. This included taking charge of the 1996 First Division play-off final between Leicester City and Crystal Palace when Steve Claridge scored with practically the last kick of the match to take Leicester back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking.

In total, he controlled 463 matches in English football and remained in the game after retirement as a referees’ coach. In 2007, he was appointed National Group Manager in charge of the 57 top referees for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) and is also the Training Officer for the Lancaster & Morecambe Referees’ Society.

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Referees in the Middle: Mike Jones

Premier League Career: 2008-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Hull City 0-5 Wigan Athletic (30 August 2008)

Mike Jones is approaching the landmark of 200 games refereed in the Premier League. He is one of the more modern refs, having only begun his referee career two decades ago. The 49-year-old from Cheshire’s first match in the Football League was a Division Two clash between Mansfield Town and Hull City in August 1997.

After 11 seasons in the Football League, Jones was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2008, allowing him the opportunity to take control of Premier League matches. His first match in the top-flight was Wigan Athletic’s resounding 5-0 victory away at Hull City in August 2008. That still remains Wigan’s biggest Premier League victory.

Big finals haven’t come the way of Mike Jones yet. His most high-profile appointment was the 2007 League Two play-off final, sending off Marc Tierney of Shrewsbury Town in their 3-1 loss to Bristol Rovers. Tierney became the second player to be sent off at the new Wembley after its significant redevelopment.

Some like the way he attempts to allow games to flow. Others don’t. Former top-flight referee Keith Hackett was especially critical in 2016, saying in an article for the Daily Telegraph: “Too soft and inconsistent to be a referee at this level.”

The most embarrassing moment of Mike’s Premier League career came in October 2009 when he was involved in one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history. Sunderland were playing Liverpool FC and took the lead early on at the Stadium of Light, courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent. Replays showed Bent’s shot took a deflection off a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch by visiting supporters before kick-off! The goal was allowed to stand and Sunderland won the match 1-0. Jones was demoted for a week from Premier League duty and the beach ball eventually ended up being an exhibit at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

However, he is still going strong and I would expect him to be part of the Premier League refereeing fraternity for some time to come.

Referees in the Middle: Matt Messias

Premier League Career: 2000-2005

First Premier League Match: Derby County 1-0 Coventry City (16 December 2000)

Final Premier League Match: Portsmouth 1-1 Bolton Wanderers (7 May 2005)

Matt Messias first took up refereeing in 1982 whilst he was still trying to play the game. In the end, officiating would be his way into professional football and he spent five years on the Premier League referees’ list.

Injury would put paid to his playing career. A recurrent cartilage problem in 1984 forced him to look at the other alternative of refereeing. He first took charge of games in the York and District Saturday League before progressing to the Northern Counties East League. This was a weekend job for Messias. During the week, he was a PE teacher at Filey School in Yorkshire.

He continued to climb the ladder as the 1980s ended and he made the assistant referees’ list in 1991 for the Football League, followed by a promotion onto the Premier League list for the inaugural campaign of the new era. However, it would be another eight years before he took charge of a top-flight game.

The match was unremarkable in December 2000. Nine days before Christmas, Malcolm Christie scored the only goal after nine minutes as Derby County beat Coventry City 1-0 at Pride Park. This match was the first of 85 Premier League matches that Matt took control of. He showed six red cards in total.

33% of these dismissals came in the same match. Fulham’s Rufus Brevett and Steve Marlet both saw red as they lost their discipline in a goalless draw with Birmingham City in November 2002. Messias’ most famous Premier League moment would come a year later and Birmingham were right at the centre of it.

Steve Bruce’s side travelled to Tyneside to play Newcastle United. The match was in its early stages when play was stopped and Birmingham’s Robbie Savage was on the ground. He was clutching his face. Only replays revealed later that Messias had accidentally elbowed Savage in the face as the midfielder went to run past him but was struck by a flying arm!

Three years after the incident, he told the Yorkshire Post: “I was putting my arm out for a free-kick and caught Savage, who crumpled in a heap. He needed smelling salts and when he got up he pretended to show me the red card. Funnily enough, (Newcastle striker) Alan Shearer came up to me and said, ‘We have been wanting to do that for years!’

Although he was a capable referee, Messias missed out on the majority of the top events. His biggest engagement was representing England at the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Championships in Germany, taking charge of two group matches and a semi-final between Sweden and Serbia & Montenegro. He wasn’t lucky enough to referee the FA Cup final, although he was fourth official for Jeff Winter when Manchester United defeated Millwall in 2004.

His dream was to referee at the World Cup finals but those hopes were dashed when Graham Poll was selected ahead of him for the 2006 finals in Germany. This zapped his motivation and in January 2006, the PGMOL announced that Messias would retire from the Select Group. He later admitted that professional referees are under a lot of pressure and you “learn to deal with it – to control the controllable.”

His experience though has helped in his future. Matt had set-up a business which offered help in coping with stressful occupations using his own experiences to make this a success. He did stay in the game and helped mentor a local referee from Barnsley, Ryan Newman. Newman has made the Vanarama National League list thanks to the help of Messias.

In 2008, he decided to move to New Zealand for six years and resumed his teaching career in Auckland, teaching PE, doing coaching for a girls’ football team and become a deputy principal in Howick College. In July 2014, Messias returned to the UK to take up a position at the Atrium Studio School in Devon as a foundation principal.

Matt Messias has demonstrated that there is a life after refereeing in the world’s most envied league. He was one of the most under-rated refs during his time and was unfortunate not to get slightly better breaks.

Referees in the Middle: Chris Foy

Premier League Career: 2001-2015

First Premier League Match: Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Charlton Athletic (15 December 2001)

Final Premier League Match: Manchester City 2-0 Southampton (24 May 2015)

Like many of his colleagues in the game, Chris Foy has taken charge of some of the biggest matches in English club football. The highlight of a 21-year career as both an assistant referee and referee was taking control of the 2010 FA Cup final between champions Chelsea and relegated Portsmouth. In the match, he awarded Pompey a spot-kick which Kevin-Prince Boateng missed four minutes before Didier Drogba’s free-kick was enough for the Blues’ to complete a league and cup double.

His first appointment was as an assistant referee in the Football League back in 1994. That breakthrough came 11 years after he started taking charge of games in the amateur, regional and local leagues. He first started refereeing matches in 1996 and five years later, was promoted to the Select Group Referees list which officiate at the highest level – the Premier League.

Foy’s first Premier League match was uneventful. Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic played out a sterile 0-0 draw in December 2001. His next match was a game between Aston Villa and Everton, the only game he would referee in his career involving the Toffees. There was no benefit on the evening but it was later discovered that Foy is an Everton fan and consequently, appointments are made to avoid such issues in the future.

In 2002, it was the late Ugo Ehiogu who was the first recipient of a red card from Chris Foy in the Premier League. The Middlesbrough defender was given his marching orders during a 1-0 defeat at Upton Park to West Ham United.

In 2005-2006, Foy dished out a staggering 10 red cards in just 41 matches across the top three divisions in England. Among those dismissals was one for Arjen Robben in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Sunderland. The Dutch winger had just scored the winning goal for the league leaders and he promptly jumped into the visiting fans to celebrate. However, having been booked earlier in the match, Robben was accused of “over-celebrating” and was shown a second yellow by Foy, meaning a red card headed his way. It was extremely harsh but Foy was only following a new directive which has never been welcomed with much grace by watching fans.

Chris Foy’s final match was Manchester City’s final day victory over Southampton in 2014-2015 which was also Frank Lampard’s final game in the Premier League. He retired at the end of the campaign and is now a senior referees coach for the PGMOB (Professional Game Match Officials Board), working under another former Premier League ref in Howard Webb.

He was never one to hog the headlines and that’s what made Chris Foy a decent and calm presence within the referees’ community.

Referees in the Middle: Peter Walton

Premier League Career: 2003-2012

First Premier League Match: Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-3 Leicester City (25 October 2003)

Final Premier League Match: Everton 2-0 West Bromwich Albion (31 March 2012)

Peter Walton spent almost a decade as a Premier League referee before deciding to step aside in 2012. He is now general manager of PRO (Professional Referee Organisation) in North America. On taking the role, Walton said: “I think the referees we’ve got in North America are very good. I think the competitive nature of our leagues are very good as well and what I’m intending to do is match-up the referee abilities to that of the playing side.”

He has a professional career in the middle which spanned nearly 20 years. Walton, from Long Buckby in Northamptonshire began refereeing in 1986 in the local leagues. In that spell, he had time to enjoy playing football as a hobby, playing in the United Counties League.

Like many of his predecessors, Walton started learning the trade as an assistant referee in the big leagues. He made that list for Premier League matches in 1994 and was an assistant referee at the 1996 FA Cup final – made famous for Liverpool FC’s embarrassing pre-match white suit debacle.

Although he was on the assistant referees’ list for Premier League appointments as early as the third Premier League campaign, it wasn’t until 2003 before Walton took charge of his first top-flight matches. It was a Midlands’ derby which saw seven goals and a dramatic collapse by Leicester City. Leicester led Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 at half-time but somehow conspired to lose 4-3 at Molineux by the full-time whistle.

Walton took charge of 169 Premier League games. He was the referee during the infamous game involving Stoke City and Arsenal in February 2010. That was when Aaron Ramsey suffered a double leg fracture after an awful tackle by Ryan Shawcross which led to a red card for the Stoke defender. The only game Walton sent off two players in the same match was a pre-Christmas 2010 fixture between Manchester City and Everton. Kolo Toure and Victor Anichebe both collected two yellow cards, which therefore equalled dismissals.

His last appointment as a Premier League official came on 31 March 2012. Everton beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at Goodison Park. Three days later, he had moved into his new role to look after referees in the United States and Canada. It is a role he still holds today.

Peter Walton did his time, gained his experience and was a safe referee who would show authority but wouldn’t hog the headlines unlike some in his generation as a Premier League official.

Referees in the Middle: Paul Durkin

Premier League Career: 1992-2004

First Premier League Match: Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (28 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City (15 May 2004)

Paul Durkin was one of the most respected referees in the Premier League and also one of the best. He spent 12 seasons in the middle, beginning and finishing his Premier League career ironically at the same ground, Highbury.

Hailing from the Isle of Portland in Dorset, Durkin refereed 242 games across 12 campaigns, showing 595 yellow cards and dishing out 29 red cards during his career.

1997-1998 was Durkin’s best season. His consistent performances ultimately saw him chosen for the ultimate pinnacle in football, the World Cup.  Early in the season, he took charge of a tempestuous match between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United. In the 34th minute, Bolton’s Nathan Blake and Gary Pallister of United started to trade punches with each other. What happened next was something more akin to be seen at a rugby match. A 21-man brawl followed with only Bolton goalkeeper Keith Branagan staying out of the melee. Durkin kept his composure and sent off Blake and Pallister for starting the incident in the first place.

A month later, Durkin was at the centre of another flashpoint when he was physically pushed by French midfielder Emmanuel Petit of Arsenal during a goalless draw with Aston Villa. Again, he didn’t produce any dramatics and simply flashed the red card at Petit, who was subsequently banned for three matches.

Often called up to the big matches, Durkin had the honour of taking charge of the 1998 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Newcastle United. He also refereed the 2003 League Cup final involving Liverpool FC and Manchester United. In 2004, he did a rare thing for referees and faced the television cameras after a 0-0 stalemate at Old Trafford when Manchester United played Newcastle United.

Both teams had debatable moments in the match and Durkin admitted he’d been wrong not to award Newcastle a penalty when Alan Shearer was tripped by Tim Howard.

He told Sky Sports: “If I had seen the incident, clearly I would have given it. I was expecting the ball to be playing up field, so I was a long way off when it happened and I wasn’t certain there had been any contact. It’s disappointing because you like to get the big decisions right but you only get a split-second. I looked at it again on TV and Newcastle can count themselves unfortunate.”

Durkin’s final match was the historic game at Highbury when Arsenal completed an unbeaten season in 2003-2004 with victory over Leicester City. After appearing on the short-lived ITV gameshow Simply the Best as a referee, Durkin now works as a referee assessor for the FA.

Honest, straight-talking and widely respected within many quarters of the game, Paul Durkin is still considered as one of the best referees across the first quarter of a century in the Premier League.

Referees in the Middle: Peter Jones

Premier League Career: 1994-2002

First Premier League Match: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday (24 August 1994)

Final Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Liverpool FC (27 April 2002)

From Loughborough in Leicestershire, Peter Jones spent eight seasons as a Premier League referee. He joined the elite in 1994 after six years developing his knowledge and awareness in the Football League.

In total, Mr Jones took charge of nearly 150 Premier League matches – his first was an entertaining victory for Queens Park Rangers over Sheffield Wednesday in August 1994. Less than a month later, he dished out his first red card and it went to the Chelsea skipper Dennis Wise. Wise used some foul and abusive language towards a linesman in the Blues’ 4-2 defeat to Newcastle United on Tyneside. The linesman reported the incident and Jones had no option but to send Wise from the field of play.

Like many of his peers, Peter was fortunate enough to referee the FA Cup final. His day in the spotlight came at Wembley Stadium in 1999 when Manchester United comfortably beat Newcastle United 2-0 to complete the second part of their famous treble success. Jones was also chosen to handle the 1997 FA Charity Shield and the 1998 League Cup final.

1998-1999 was his most dramatic season. In September 1998, he oversaw a dramatic match between Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea at Ewood Park. He sent off Graeme Le Saux and Sebastian Perez after a fierce confrontation between the pair and awarded both teams a spot-kick each in Chelsea’s 4-3 win. This was the season where he wouldn’t take any tolerance and no fewer than 74 yellow cards were thrust in the direction of players.

In the FA Cup that season, he was the official during a controversial fifth round encounter involving Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury. The match was heading for a replay when a Sheffield United player went down injured. The ball was kicked out of play to allow treatment and whilst it was expected possession would be returned to the Blades’, Arsenal forward Kanu thought otherwise. He ran through and played in Marc Overmars to score the winning goal. According to the laws of the game, Jones could not disallow the goal but Arsene Wenger was his savour as he offered the game to be replayed. It was 10 days later which Arsenal won, ironically 2-1.

After his successful 1999, Jones accepted a Masters of Arts Honorary degree from Loughborough University and began to help promote the Scout Survival Skills Badge. His last Premier League match was in April 2002. Gus Poyet scored the only goal as Tottenham Hotspur beat Liverpool FC 1-0 to end the Reds’ championship hopes for that season.

Since then, Jones has been a member of the UEFA Referees’ Observers Panel and has brought his whistle out of retirement to officiate in the six-a-side Masters Football tournaments that ran from 2003 to 2011.

Referees in the Middle: Keith Stroud

Premier League Career: 2007-2009, 2015-

First Premier League Match: Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Sunderland (15 February 2006)

Last Premier League Match (To-date): Watford 2-0 West Ham United (31 October 2015)

Hampshire resident Keith Stroud has only taken charge of 17 Premier League matches in his career. Like Stuart Attwell, Stroud will be hoping to follow his path and make his way back to the Select Group of Referees who take charge of officiating top-flight matches.

Luton Town supporter Stroud first took up refereeing in 1988 and was promoted from the non-league to the National List 16 years later. In that time, he had experience as an assistant referee at the 2002 Division Three playoff final between Cheltenham Town and Rushden & Diamonds. He also was an assistant in the 2003 FA Cup final which was refereed by Graham Barber when Arsenal defeated Southampton 1-0.

Stroud’s first match outside of Conference Football was in August 2004; a League Two encounter between Cheltenham Town and Scunthorpe United at Whaddon Road. After controlling several playoff matches in the Football League, he was given the opportunity to officiate in the top-flight. His first game was in February 2006 when Blackburn Rovers beat Sunderland 2-0 at Ewood Park. The most games Stroud has done in a Premier League season was seven in the 2007-2008 season.

In 2009, it was confirmed that Stroud along with Steve Tanner had been dropped from the Select Group of officials. However, he appealed his case with support from the workers’ union, Unison. It was found out that monthly reviews on the pair’s performances had not been carried out. Therefore, their exclusions had been flawed.

Since then though, Stroud has only taken charge of three top-flight matches. His last game was in October 2015, handing out his first Premier League red card to West Ham’s James Collins in the match away to Watford.

Has Keith Stroud already had the final whistle on his Premier League career? He is still in the Football League today and has got to keep working hard. His opportunity might arise again sometime soon.

Referees in the Middle: Graham Poll

Premier League Career: 1993-2007

First Premier League Match: Southampton 3-3 Sheffield United (2 October 1993)

Final Premier League Match: Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal (13 May 2007)

Few referees’ past and present have had the impact Graham Poll did. He is one of the most iconic referees the Premier League has ever seen. Graham took charge of a number of the top clashes in the top-flight, including some tasty confrontations between Manchester United and Arsenal. His career spanned 1544 matches over 26 years and is considered among the best. Sadly for Graham, a fateful error of judgement in Stuttgart during the 2006 World Cup seems to be his lasting legacy.

Born in 1963, Poll took up the challenge of refereeing when he was just 17. He quickly progressed through the ranks and became a Premier League referee in time for the 1993-1994 season. His first of 330 Premier League games was a belting match between struggling Southampton and Sheffield United at the Dell. Mr Poll wouldn’t get a quiet debut. He sent off Sheffield United’s David Tuttle for two yellow cards and witnessed a great comeback by the visitors’ from 3-1 down to rescue a 3-3 draw.

As his career spanned 14 Premier League seasons, Graham’s red card tally is quite high – 64 in total, an average of 5.1 red cards per season. Here are some of his most famous dismissals;

  • Vinnie Jones and David Lowe were both sent off after the pair decided to start a boxing bout during a match between Wimbledon and Leicester City in September 1994.
  • Paul Heald was given his marching orders at St James’ Park in October 1995. With all three substitutes on and the goalie dismissed, Vinnie Jones finished the match in-goal for Wimbledon. They lost 6-1 to Newcastle United.
  • During the draw between Manchester United and Liverpool FC in April 1998, he sent Michael Owen off for a late tackle on Peter Schmeichel. It was his first dismissal of his professional career.
  • In a clash between Sunderland and Manchester United in January 2001, Poll produced three red cards. Sunderland’s Alex Rae and Andy Cole of Manchester United were dismissed for a head-to-head confrontation.
  • Controversial and slightly harsh red cards were dished out to Ray Parlour and Craig Bellamy in the Arsenal vs. Newcastle United contest at Highbury in December 2001. Thierry Henry was so unhappy with Poll’s performance, he tried to confront him at full-time and had to be restrained by Alan Shearer and Arsenal’s coaching team.
  • In Chelsea’s first-ever Premier League defeat in November 2006 to Tottenham Hotspur, England captain John Terry was sent off for a clash with Ledley King. Jose Mourinho expressed his disapproval in his post-match interview.

One of his most regretful Premier League moments came in the closing seconds of a Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park in April 2000. With the score at 0-0, Liverpool FC goalkeeper Sander Westerveld kicked the ball at Don Hutchinson’s back. The ball span into the empty net but Everton were denied by a claim made by Poll that he had already blown his whistle to signal full-time. Television replays later proved this was incorrect and Poll admitted his error in judgement on the eve of his retirement in 2007.

On an international scale, Graham Poll was widely-respected. He was the English representative at EURO 2000, World Cup 2002 and World Cup 2006. He was also chosen to take charge of the 2005 UEFA Cup final between Sporting Lisbon and CSKA Moscow in Lisbon. However, it all went wrong for him in Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena during a group stage match at the 2006 World Cup finals.

Croatia were playing Australia and the Europeans needed to win to stand any chance of progressing for the knockout rounds. A draw would be good enough for the Socceroos. It was a tough match to referee and Poll’s performance was pretty good for much of the match. He correctly sent off two players and gave Australia a rightful penalty in the 2-2 draw. Unfortunately, he booked Josip Simunic of Croatia on the hour mark and failed to record this in his notebook. When Simunic made another blatant foul in the closing seconds of normal time, Poll showed another yellow card in the defender’s direction, which should have spelt his dismissal from the match. However, the red card didn’t arrive and he continued to play on. Commentators had spotted this but not the man who many felt had a decent chance of landing the World Cup final. As the final whistle was blown, Simunic’s petty arguments continued and he said too much. Graham thrust another yellow card (Simunic’s third of the match) and finally showed him the red card. It was an absolute nightmare. He was told of the error around 15 minutes after the full-time whistle. He knew his tournament was over.

He did one more season of domestic and European club football but was constantly reminded of his summer faux-pas up-and-down the country. The spark had gone and during the 2006-2007 season, Graham Poll decided to retire at the end of the season. His final Premier League match was a goalless draw on the final day between Portsmouth and Arsenal. In this game, he correctly ruled out a Niko Kranjcar goal for offside. If the goal had stood though, Pompey would have qualified for the UEFA Cup.

Four months after his retirement, Poll released his autobiography entitled “Seeing Red.” He now works in the media, doing a regular column for the Daily Mail and has also dedicated some of his spare time to charity work including running the 2008 London Marathon.

His career might have not finished right at the top but Graham Poll made a significant impact on refereeing in this country for several seasons, earning plenty of respect along the way from players, pundits and managers. It is unfortunate that he is remembered more prominently for his mistake at a World Cup rather than the lessons he would later give to younger referees coming through the ranks.

Referees in the Middle: Mike Dean

Premier League Career: 2000-

First Premier League Match: Leicester City 1-0 Southampton (9 September 2000)

From the Wirral, Mike Dean will be entering his 18th season as a Premier League referee in 2017-2018. His presence in many of the big games and longevity must be praised, even though he is a ref who doesn’t give many chances to players and like dishing out cards – sometimes unnecessarily.

He began refereeing back in 1985 and after three seasons in the Football League, was appointed to the Select Group of officials in 2000. His first Premier League game was an uneventful match involving Leicester City and Southampton in September 2000 which the Foxes’ won 1-0.

In total, Mr Dean has taken charge of 429 Premier League matches, flashed out his yellow card a whopping 1545 times and sent off players on 42 occasions. In the 25th season, he sent off five players including two from Sunderland and Nathan Redmond of Southampton. In January 2017, he gave West Ham’s Sofiane Feghouli a highly controversial red card against Manchester United, even though the challenge didn’t look reckless. Many accused Dean of falling for Phil Jones’ exaggerated reaction after the Algerian’s challenge. He later missed a blatant offside for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal which sealed a 2-0 Manchester United victory at the London Stadium. It is fair to say, this was a poor evening at the office for Dean.

However, he does show humour too and in November 2015, produced a light-hearted moment in the wake of Tottenham Hotspur’s opening goal of their 3-1 win at home to Aston Villa. After allowing a fine advantage early in the move, Mousa Dembele tucked away the first goal of the evening. Dean’s reaction was to show off his dancing, discotheque move which attracted plenty of humour from social media followers and professional pundits.

Mike Dean is one of the Premier League’s highly-respected officials and is held in high regard by many of his fellow peers. Therefore, it is no surprise that although he divides a range of opinions from fans across the country, he does get a fair share of the elite matches in any season. He has been in charge of an FA Cup final in his career back in 2008 as well as Birmingham City’s shock 2011 League Cup final success over Arsenal and three Championship playoff finals.

Expect Mike Dean to be at every ground at some point over the 2017-2018 campaign. With his high penalty percentage award record, don’t be surprised if you will like and loathe his decisions over the course of the next year.

Referees in the Middle: Keith Hackett

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Ipswich Town 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool FC (30 March 1994)

The majority of Keith Hackett’s career was before the introduction of the FA Premier League but even though he had reached the planned retirement age before the reformation in English football, his exemption onto the list for the inaugural season showed how well-respected he was.

Hackett’s record is right up there with the best in the business. In a list maintained by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics), Hackett is within the top 100 referees. When he retired in April 1994, he had been refereeing for over 34 years.

Like many of his peers, Hackett began in the local leagues in 1960, taking charge of games across Yorkshire. He became a Football League linesman in 1972 and four years later, had progressed to the full list of officials. He was just 32 years old when this milestone was achieved.

His best period was the 1980s. He was one of the youngest referees to ever have the privilege of officiating at the FA Cup final which was in those days, the ultimate domestic honour in English club football. Hackett’s year for the showpiece was the 1981 classic between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City which finished 1-1 before the Ricky Villa magic in the replay days later.

Three years later, he was back at Wembley to do the all-Merseyside Charity Shield when a Bruce Grobbelaar own goal meant Everton beat Liverpool FC. The domestic set was complete when he got the 1986 League Cup final as Oxford United won their only knockout trophy, defeating Queens Park Rangers 3-0.

In 1988, Hackett was the English choice of official at the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. He took control of the hosts’ 1-1 draw with Italy during the group stages which was played in Cologne. Later that summer, he went to the Olympic Games to officiate in the football competition in Seoul, South Korea. Again, he looked after a West German match, this time the semi-final with Brazil which ended 1-1 but saw the South Americans win on penalties.

In October 1990, he had to deal with one of the toughest incidents of his or anyone’s career when a 21-man brawl broke out at Old Trafford during a league clash involving Manchester United and Arsenal. Hackett and his match officials handled a tricky situation with stern punishments for both clubs. After consultations between them and the FA, Manchester United were docked one point and deducted two points from Arsenal’s total. The Gunners’ still won the league championship.

When the Premier League began, the new league could trust on Keith Hackett’s judgement and control. He took charge of 36 Premier League matches, handed out just 38 yellow cards and didn’t dismiss a single player. In that period, he only awarded three penalties and two of those were in one match when Oldham Athletic lost 4-1 to Tottenham in the inaugural season. He retired just short of his 50th birthday in 1994 with his last match in the middle being a blockbuster encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool FC. United won the midweek match 1-0 with Paul Ince scoring the only goal.

After retiring from officiating, Hackett became a referees’ assessor and in March 2004, he replaced Philip Don to be appointed General Manager of the PGMOB (Professional Game Match Officials Board). His knowledge has also come through in publishing through books, cartoon quizzes and columns for the Observer and the Daily Telegraph.

He is honest enough in his assessments too. At the end of the 2016-2017 campaign, he stated in a strong article that the likes of Jon Moss, Kevin Friend and Roger East shouldn’t be retained on the current elite list.

Keith Hackett is still a strong voice in the game and he won’t hold back either. People listen to his frank and honest assessments nowadays, just like they did when he was controlling football matches in the middle.

Referees in the Middle: Steve Bennett

Premier League Career: 1999-2010

First Premier League Match: Derby County 1-3 Middlesbrough (14 August 1999)

Final Premier League Match: Aston Villa 0-1 Blackburn Rovers (9 May 2010)

Steve Bennett spent over 25 years in the middle and achieved some high-profile milestones during his career. He was a no-nonsense referee who would always stick to the strict rules but was also a referee who did his best to not be the centre of attention.

After starting out in the regional, local and non-leagues, Bennett began refereeing in the Football League in 1995. Four years later, he made the jump into the top-flight. His first match was Middlesbrough’s 3-1 away win at Derby County in August 1999.

One of his early appointments in his Premier League career was an ill-disciplined match involving Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United in January 2001. It is rare to see three red cards in the same match but that is what happened at White Hart Lane. Neil Sullivan, Nolberto Solano and Kieron Dyer were all sent for an early shower by Bennett as Tottenham won 4-2.

Mr Bennett has refereed in other tricky situations. In 2004, Tim Cahill scored the only goal of the game at the City of Manchester Stadium (as it was known then) to win all three points for Everton. It was the Aussie’s first goal for his new club and he celebrated by baring his chest to his new supporters. However, this counted as a bookable offence in the eyes of Bennett and having cautioned Cahill earlier, promptly sent him off. The decision left David Moyes speechless and drew criticism from top FIFA officials.

Four years later, he was involved in another flashpoint incident involving a Merseyside club. Manchester United were playing Liverpool FC at Old Trafford when Javier Mascherano was dismissed for constant protesting and arguing with Bennett. The Argentine completely lost his discipline and started using expletive language towards the official. Only the intervention of his teammates and manager Rafa Benitez stopped the matter escalating further. Mascherano later apologised for his actions and admitted his behaviour was “inappropriate.” After this incident, a daily newspaper launched a ‘Shut It’ campaign, which was started to urge footballers to respect the referee and curb their argumentative behaviour.

Steve Bennett was lucky enough to referee the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley when Didier Drogba scored the only goal of a disappointing contest between Chelsea and Manchester United in 2007. He was a lucky omen for the men from west London, also refereeing the 2005 League Cup final in Cardiff against Liverpool FC. The 3-2 victory was Jose Mourinho’s first piece of silverware in English football.

In July 2010, two months after taking control of a final day match between Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers, Bennett retired from the frontline and is now a full-time coach, passing on his wise methods onto the younger generation of officials.